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Search tags: Emma-Donoghue
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review 2017-09-29 02:04
Book 62/100: Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins - Emma Donoghue

So I guess I knew who Emma Donoghue was before she was "cool" (i.e., pre-ROOM), since this book has been on my shelf FOREVER ... but I didn't actually read it till after I'd read her more recent stuff. I'm generally 10-20 years behind on my TBR, though, so this is not at all unusual.

Having read her later stuff first, I can see that her writing voice is not quite as strong or refined in this collection, but the prose is still beautiful most of the time, with the exception of a few moments when it becomes vague or a little garbled. But as fairy tale retellings go, these are decent, not often changing the structure of the originals much, but casting their meaning in new light. In particular, I liked that the stories subverted the original trope common in fairy tales of women working against one another in competition, and instead presented heroines who were liberated by or in cooperation with the traditional "villains" in the story.

All of the retellings in this collection are connected, so the protagonist in one story is telling her tale to the protagonist of the previous tale. This forms a backwards running chain that I thought would somehow come full circle, but it didn't. In some cases, the revelation of who a minor character in one story was in her past made perfect sense -- in others, it felt like a stretch, and too bizarre to be meaningful (there are several instances of people being reincarnated as animals). Overall, this particular narrative device felt somewhat gimmicky, and I feel doubtful about whether Donoghue would have applied it later in her career as a more mature writer.

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review 2017-07-27 03:47
The Wonder
The Wonder - Emma Donoghue

Emma Donoghue has the unique ability to place the reader in a precarious, uncomfortable and psychologically fraught situation — it is utterly compelling, and almost equally frustrating. In this story set in the Irish Midlands, Donoghue's characters are perfectly balanced; so that while there are certainly "good guys" and "bad guys" in a traditional sense, many of them cross the line back and forth between the two. There is a danger here in giving away the story with the small details, but I usually try to avoid that anyway. When I first finished this book, I could only comment on Goodreads that it was disturbing, and I needed time to recover. I have had some time now, but I'm not so sure I have recovered. Don't let that stop you from reading this book. In fact, it should make you go out and get it right now.

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review 2017-05-08 17:53
The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono  
The Lotterys Plus One - Emma Donoghue,Caroline Hadilaksono

A failure, sadly, not epic. Here's the set up: an enormous, unconventional family living in Toronto epitomizes all the lefty, hippy, green, etc. positions you can imagine, just exactly as if someone had said, hmm, "what's the super liberal family of today?" and proceeded to include every idea that came to mind, starting with Angelina and Brad's kids but with one lesbian and one gay couple co-parenting. Everyone represents some different combination of mixed races/ethnicities. There are an array of disabilities. The kids are homeschooled, each pursuing their own interests. The family home is as green as possible, the food is organic, they have no car, they dumpster-dive like pros. Although they are wealthy due to a lucky lottery win, they do not indulge in traditional status-symbols, and the kids don't get a lot of stuff, especially plastic stuff, to play with, and have no money of their own except from outside jobs. Also, they didn't buy the ticket. You've got the idea. You can see the pitch meeting in your mind's eye. That's the set-up, now here's the drama: one of the four biological grandfathers, previously never introduced to the children because of a vast array of bigoted and hateful attitudes, has developed Alzheimer's. Can the generous, tolerant, loving family find it in them to accept this angry old codger and truly welcome him? Of course they can. And you've guessed that he in turn develops a warm relationship with all of them. Bullshit. Put aside the simplistic, non-combative, hardly ever actually hurtful portrayal of Alzheimer's. The author has made one member of the family into a token exclusively for a plot point, and that nagged at me from the get go. Nine-year-old Sumac is our point of view character. Both of her birth parents were accountants, so I think we're meant to assume she's Asperger-y. Sumac introduces the rest of the family early on, pointing out whatever characteristic it is that the grandfather will mock or abuse at some point. So, Brian is four, and was born Briar, and a year ago he changed his name, and he never wants to be referred to as a girl, although apparently he's never said he is a boy. Sumac will now use female pronouns for the rest of the book, just to be sure the reader knows that Brian used to be Briar and doesn't for a moment forget that Brian, who keeps his head shaved so as not to be mistaken for a girl, is *really* a girl. When the grandfather sees the child naked for the first time, of course he yells that it's a girl! I'm not any sort of paragon of enlightenment. I get things wrong all the time. If I am any good as a human though, I try to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. But seriously? Even I know that the first rule of consideration for other humans is to acknowledge and respect how they choose to present themselves. External genitalia and lack of clear declarations aside, if a child chooses not to be a girl you don't refer to him with feminine pronouns. If Brian wants anyone to know that he used to be Briar that is his information to reveal or not. Emma Donoghue knows this, I imagine. And yet, she created a character and deliberately mistreated that character through half the novel, just so we could feel smugger than the grandfather. Library copy

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review 2017-03-24 02:58
Book 12/100: Room by Emma Donoghue
Room - Emma Donoghue

I rarely give out five-star reviews, and my criteria for a five-star review is fairly straightforward: I give five stars to books that I don't want to end.

I read lots of books every year that I enjoy, but because my TBR list is so long, I very rarely dread a book ending -- I know there will always be plenty more where that came from!

But this book engaged me so much that I felt dismay rather than accomplishment as I watched the end draw nearer and nearer. In the beginning, it was the voice and the introduction of a horrifying situation that captivated me. Then it was whether they would manage to pull off an escape. And then it was seeing the "normal" world through Jack's eyes, which turned it into a strange and fascinating place.

I've heard people criticize this book for infusing Jack with too much maturity, but his voice felt believably childlike to me throughout -- perhaps it helped that I listened to a full-cast audio version (WONDERFUL) that actually used a child's voice, so it was a lot harder for me to layer an adult inflection on top of Jack's words. The characters were all so richly drawn and multi-dimensional -- even Old Nick, as despicable as he was. I loved both that Jack's narration kept this story from feeling too bleak and also that as an adult you could read between the lines. The movie is excellent as well.

I can see now why people who read Donoguhe's other books after reading this one come away disappointed -- this is certainly a tough act to follow.

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review 2017-01-07 13:46
The Wonder
The Wonder - Emma Donoghue

I think I picked this novel up because I wanted to see why it was so popular. I was anticipating an exciting novel and as I read, I really didn’t understand the hype. A child, an eleven- year old girl was entertaining the world with the notion that she was surviving on a mere few drops of water each day. This child was thought to be a Wonder. My thoughts went back to people claiming that they were virgins, never to have sex yet they were pregnant, people who have the image of Christ on their pieces of toast yet they did nothing to create it, all Wonders! I was hoping that the author would throw me a line, that she would reveal something to me before the characters realized the truth behind why Anna was surviving on a few drops of water each day. I wanted to know beforehand and then watch the characters as they discovered the truth because I knew that they were somehow missing something, that they were blind to the facts that had to be staring them right in the face.

 

I thought it slow going as the story unraveled, I wanted instant results just like nurse Lib and Sister Michael who was assigned to Anna. I wanted to know the reason behind this phenomenon. The days passed slowly, I was only reading about them but to experience them had to be a nightmare. As Anna’s health starts to deteriorate, it starts to become a nightmare. How will this all going to end? Who will actually be the winner and what does the winner actually win? For being such a popular novel, I was surprised at the content and the pace of this novel. Did I like it? I was glad that I read it, it was interesting and the story intrigued me and I don’t know if it could have been shorter as you needed that anticipation and mystery to the story but it’s not a favorite of mine.

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